Category Archives: Random

Praying for Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse died earlier today, most likely of a drug overdose.  Although I was not an fan of Amy’s music and did not approve of her lifestyle, I was sadden by the news of her passing.  Only 27 years old, Amy should have had most of her life ahead of her.

The first time I remember hearing of Amy was in the fall of 2007 when an Internet news service ran of photo of a fornlorn Amy after her husband arrest.  I don’t typically read gossip about entertainers; however, I was drawn to Amy’s photo.  It was not her trademark beehive hairdo, her outlandish makeup, or the tattoos that covered her body that attracted my attention.  Rather , it was the desperate look in her eyes.  She reminded me of a lost child in need of help.  As I read the accompanying article, I learned that Amy was a talented but troubled young woman addicted to alcohol and drugs. 

I felt led to pray for Amy that day and occassionally since.  My prayers were that Amy would find her way to God.  Only God could provide the love and peace that Amy sought.  Alcohol and drugs could neither solve Amy’s problems nor allow her to hide from them.  In the end, it appears that they killed her.

Unfortunately, I have no reason to believe that Amy sought a relationship with God.  And now it is too late for her.  However, for anyone reading this, it is not too late.  God loves you and He sent his son Jesus to die for your sins.  Making Jesus your Lord and Savior is the only way to achieve true peace and happiness.  God wants to give you the wonderful life He planned for you. Won’t you let him?  You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Unemployment, Cancer, Grandchildren, and Trusting God Through It All

Cancer and unemployment are the difficult things in my life right now, and grandchildren are the phenomenal blessings.  Through these ups and downs, I am learning to trust God and am reminded that he is with me through all the circumstances of life.

A year and a half ago, Steve and I were blessed with the news that our first grandchild was expected.  That joyful announcement came at a time when we really needed some good news.  We were approaching the first anniversary of Steve being laid off, and his parents’ health was of great concern.  The expected baby was a reminder of God’s great love for us. 

The intervening months were stressful as Steve’s unemployment stretched into a second year and his father passed away.  Whenever I felt like life was just too difficult, my spirits would be lifted be the mere thought that a baby was on the way.  Daniel’s arrival ten months ago brought great joy to our lives.  We love that little boy with all of our hearts.  We thank God daily that he is a healthy, happy child.

About six weeks ago, we learned that my sister has breast cancer. Although they caught it early and the tumor was rather small, the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes and has been diagnosed as an aggressive form. Fortunately, the cancer has not spread to her organs. She is facing months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  It will be a difficult time. I will do all that I can to support her, and I pray that she will experience God’s presence in a new and powerful way as she deals with her illness.

My sister’s cancer diagnosis, along with Steve’s continued unemployment—now well into its third year—can be a heavy burden to bear.  The past few weeks, these burdens have felt overwhelming at times. I know I have to trust God for my sister’s health and my husband’s job situation.  He is faithful to send bits of encouragement to remind me of his faithfulness.  For example, one day last week the number of page views of my blog was unexpected much higher than normal.  I was delighted.  The next day was even better, setting a record for my highest number of views in one day.  It wasn’t a big thing, and it didn’t change any of the circumstances of my life.  However, God used this small thing to remind me of his love for me and to help me feel relevant.

I called my sister today to share with her some unexpected good news Steve and I received yesterday.  She shared with me that the original diagnosis of Stage 1 cancer had been overly optimistic; after her lumpectomy, the cancer was reclassified as Stage 3.  God knew that I would receive this discouraging news today, so yesterday he sent us the good news another grandchild is on the way. 

Little Daniel will be getting a cousin in December.  The new little one is due on December 27th.  A Christmas baby to look forward to!  It doesn’t improve my sister’s health or increase my husband’s opportunities for gaining employment.  It does, however, remind us that we are blessed and have a great future ahead of us.  We will continue to trust God for the strength to face each day with grace, knowing that his love for us is immeasurable.

Chasing the Ice Cream Truck

You know spring has arrived when the ice cream truck begins making its rounds.  One made its first appearance of the year in our neighborhood last Saturday.  We let it pass our house without stopping but several of our neighbors flagged the driver down to purchase his sugary confections.  Apparently, the warm, sunny day brought ice cream trucks out in full force across our community.  Our pastor noticed one in his neighborhood and made mention of it in his Sunday sermon.

The coming of the ice cream truck stirs excitement in the hearts of children and adults alike.  We hear the truck long before we see it.  The familiar music wafts through the air, and we run outside to see if the truck is headed towards us or if it is passing us by.  When I was a kid, we used to send one sibling outside to signal the driver to stop while the rest of us looked for change with which to make our purchases.  It didn’t matter that our freezer was always stocked with ice cream and probably a couple of boxes of frozen treats.  The coming of the ice cream man was an event no one wanted to miss.

We introduced our oldest son to the ice cream truck the summer he turned two. Chris was a bit scared by the loud music, but he was thrilled with the treat the ice cream man gave him.  We probably only made a couple of purchases from the ice cream truck that summer and fall, but it was enough to make an impression on our son.  At that time we lived in north central Florida where the ice cream season is quite long.  Yet, at least four or five months passed between the ice cream truck’s last appearance in the fall and its re-emergence in the spring.

I’ll never forgot the day in early March when we heard the sounds of the ice cream truck coming down the street.  Chris knew exactly what the music signaled, and he was determined to buy ice cream.  The twins were nearly a year old.  I had just settled them into their high chairs and given them teething biscuits to chew on.  This was the first time I had put them in their chairs without another adult being present.  I explained to Chris that we would not be able to buy ice cream this time, as I couldn’t leave the babies alone while I looked for money and went outside.  Chris seemed to understand and ran off to play in his room.  Or so I thought.

A strange noise coming from his room alerted me that all was not as it should be.  I ran down the hall in time to see him escape out his bedroom window.  Fortunately, the window was very low to the ground.  I ran back down the hall to the kitchen to check on the babies before dashing out the front door to find my two-year old chasing after the ice cream truck.  I caught him in the next door neighbor’s yard and carried him home as he kicked and cried.  All the while I was praying that nothing bad had happened to the twins.  I found them just as I had left them, happily chewing on their cookies and making as big a mess as possible.

As the lure of the ice cream man was more than my two-year old could resist and I didn’t want a repeat of the day’s events, I developed strategies to cope with the ice cream truck.  I tried to learn the ice cream man’s routine and timed errands to coincide with his visits to our neighborhood.  For those times when we would be home, I kept a bowl of change by the front door to simplify the ice cream buying process.  If the twins were awake, I would put them in the playpen while I went out with Chris to buy ice cream. On the occasions when they were in their high chairs, I positioned myself at the front door where I could keep one eye on the twins in the kitchen and the other on Chris as he ordered a “fudgy cicle” or whatever treat he wanted that day. The ice cream man usually managed to decipher Chris’ order, but on occasion I had to yell it out from my post at the front door. 

We managed to get through the summer with no more escapes out the bedroom window.  By the next summer, all three little boys anxiously watched for the ice cream truck out the front window as they stood on the back of the couch.  They would climb down and run to the front door as soon as they heard its familiar music.  The bowl of change was always close at hand. Those are memories I will cherish all my life.

What are your favorite memories of chasing the ice cream truck?

Daylight Savings Time, Spring, and My Top Ten Vacation Dreams

Daylight savings time arrived Sunday morning, bringing with it the promise of spring, longer days, and thoughts of vacation.  For many years I lived hundreds of miles from my family, and my greatest wish for a vacation was to come back to beautiful Virginia and visit my family.  I looked forward to spending time with my parents, my seven siblings, and my many nieces and nephews. 

Ten years ago we moved back to Virginia.  I get to see my parents every Sunday at church and often once or twice during the week.  Our children are grown and live nearby, and most of my siblings are within easy driving distance of us. I am so blessed to be able to see many of my siblings several times a year.  I love getting to watch their children grow up and participating in major events in their lives.

Another advantage of seeing family regularly is that vacation has now become an opportunity for Steve and I to go away by ourselves and experience new places.  We love the beach and warm weather.  Consequently, most of our vacations have been Caribbean cruises. This year, however, we will head in the opposite direction when we visit Alaska.  For many years, it has been my desire to see America’s wilderness frontier state, so this trip will be a dream come true.  We will definitely head for a warmer climate next year.

We are finding that our vacation appetite outweighs our vacation budget—monetarily and time wise.  We will never make it to all the great vacation places that we have read about.  So, I’ve decided to make a bucket list of the ten places I most want to visit.

1)      The Florida Keys—I can’t believe that we lived in Florida for twenty years and never visited the Keys.  It’s probably because Gainesville is 350 miles from Key West, and my heart was always longing for Virginia.

2)      The Grand Canyon—It would be a shame to live in America and never see one of God’s greatest creations.

3)      New England in the fall—We have close friends in Connecticut that we should visit.  I do believe we will get there in the not too distant future.

4)      Hawaii—Doesn’t everyone want to visit Hawaii?  When I was nine and my father was serving our nation in Vietnam, my parents considered having the rest of the family meet him in Hawaii when he took his R&R.  They decided against it, and Dad went to Sydney, Australia.  It would have been a great trip, but I probably wouldn’t have appreciated it like I would now.

5)      Sydney—I guess I’ve wanted to go Sydney ever since my father told us about his trip there.

6)      Jamaica—Jamaica was a port of call on our second cruise.  We had a wonderful time, and we’ve longed to go back and spend a week on this beautiful island.

7)      Seattle—I’ve had a warm spot in my heart for this city since I watched “Sleepless in Seattle.”  It’s still one of my favorite movies. 

8)      England—I think England is the ideal spot for one’s first visit to Europe. We speak their language, more or less, and many of Steve’s ancestors were British.  Until my father’s recent DNA test, I thought my ancestry was also British.  We haven’t discovered any British ancestors yet, but I still feel a bond to the nation that settled Virginia and most of the original colonies.

9)  St. Thomas—We have been there twice on cruises.  It is absolutely lovely. I would really enjoy spending a week on their many beautiful beaches.

10)  Alberta, Canada—I think my desire to visit Alberta stems from my I love of Neil Young’s version the song “Four Strong Winds.”  Alberta seems to embody the Canadian spirit, and I would love to see the Canadian Rockies.

So, that’s my top ten places I’d like to visit.  We may not get to all of them, but we’ll have a lot of fun trying.

 What are the places you would most like to visit?

There’s Nothing Shallow About Having Standards

I just read Kat Richter’s blog “Are Standards Shallow?”  (After I Quit My Day Job) She was responding to being accused of “getting shallow” for refusing to date any man who is not taller than she is when she’s wearing heels.  Kat will probably miss out on dating some pretty terrific guys because of her preference for tall men.  That’s her loss, and it’s her choice.

Having standards is not shallow.  Physical attributes are not standards, however. They are merely preferences.  Any woman seeking a date or a husband needs to have standards.  When I was dating I had absolute standards—my line in the sand that I would not cross.  In my thirty-plus years of ministering to teen-age girls I have encouraged them to decide what their standards are before they begin dating.

For me the absolute most important standard was to date only godly Christian men.  Paul admonishes us in 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.” It was important that my future husband share my Christian beliefs and values.  I was not willing to risk falling in love with the wrong man, so I avoided dating non-believers.  I met my future husband in high school. I knew he was nice, but I didn’t know if he was a Christian until I saw him at my church one Sunday.  Of course, church attendance doesn’t equate to salvation, but seeing him at church gave me an opening to ask him about his beliefs.  My interest increased greatly as I realized how similar his beliefs were to my own.

Family values were next in importance.  I love children, and I wanted a man who also loves children.  As the second of nine children, my youngest siblings are considerably younger than me.  I was able to witness how a potential future husband would treat and respond to children simply by taking him home to meet my family.  From his first visit, Steve was comfortable with my younger siblings.  He spent many a Saturday afternoon taking them fishing in the summer and building snowmen in the winter. During our senior year of college, Steve and I took my four youngest siblings to a movie. They kids ranged from 10 to 18 years younger than us.  The next day one of his professors asked him about his children.  I guess he thought we got a very early start on our family.

Another standard was that a future husband prioritize family over income.  I can still vividly remember sitting in traffic on the Falmouth Bridge and Steve telling me that he wanted his future wife to stay home and raise their children. Those words were music to my ears.  Although I was in college and planned to continue my education afterward, I still desired greatly to be home with my children when they were young.  Steve added that being home when they were in high school was even more important. 

We were fortunate to be able to make that happen.  Steve worked hard, and I got to stay home. When the boys went to school, I went with them.  For the next thirteen years, they were either enrolled in a Christian school where I taught or I was home schooling them.  I cried on the twins’ last day of school (as seniors they finished up a few weeks earlier than the rest of the students) wondering how I would be able to come to school without them the next day.  I am so thankful for the time I had with my boys.

Beyond those three standards, everything else was icing on the cake. It didn’t hurt that Steve is tall—a full 9 inches taller than me—and very handsome.  But, I would have loved him no matter what he looked like. 

I maintained my standards and married the love of my life.  And there’s nothing shallow about that.

DNA Test: $400; Discovering Your True Heritage: Priceless

I never had any doubts about my heritage growing up.  My mother’s German lineage was well documented.  Her family came to America in the 1600’s and settled in Pennsylvania. My grandmother lived in Souderton and her twin sister in Sellersville.  Their father was a Souder and their mother a Seller, both direct descendents of the towns’ founders.

We didn’t have any information about my father’s lineage, although with Whitman as our last name, we were clearly of English descent.  This belief was reinforced when Dad purchased a Whitman family crest.  The documentation informed us that Whitman is an old Anglo Saxon name meaning “white man” and that the first Whitmans to come to America arrived in New England in 1635. 

I always thought that Whitman was a pretty cool last name.  “Whitman.  Like the candy,” I used to tell people when they asked how to spell it.  My siblings and I felt a special pride in buying Whitman samplers for our mother on her birthday and Christmas.  Perhaps we were distantly related to the makers of our favorite candy.  In school, I studied the poetry of Walt Whitman and read about Marcus and Priscilla Whitman, pioneer missionaries to Oregon who were killed in the “Whitman Massacre” in 1847. 

Last fall my brother Andy suggested the siblings all chip in to pay for a DNA test on our father.  Andy has been researching our Whitman family genealogy for several years.  We had grown up with the impression that we were part Native American, and we were excited when Andy discovered that one of our great-grandmothers was a Saponi woman named Red Fern. 

Andy had connected with some distant cousins, also descendents of Red Fern, who knew of other Native American ancestors in their lineage.  Wanting to know if we had other Native American ancestors led Andy to suggest the DNA test.  He researched the various tests and decided upon the saliva method.  We all contributed and the test kit was ordered.  The results arrived shortly before Christmas.

We were surprised that it detected no Native American DNA, since Andy had confirmed Red Fern as a direct ancestor.  Andy explained that the test can only go back five generations, and Red Fern was born seven generations before our father.  We were even more surprised to learn that the test identified our father as being of Jewish descent.  Andy did some more research and discovered that the first “Whitman” in our lineage was actually Peter Weideman who immigrated to America in the early 1800’s.  Although he came here from Sweden, he was most likely German.  Upon arrival his name was Anglicized to Whitman.  So much for one day inheriting the Whitman Candies Company. 

It’s been said that America is a great melting pot where many different cultures merged.  My family is more a part of that tradition that we thought.  We now know that our ancestors included Germans, Jews, and a least one Native American. Ironically, we haven’t identified any ancestors of English descent. 

It’s a bit disconcerting to find out that you are not who you thought your were.  Of course, in all the ways that really matter, nothing has changed. I’m still a wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, and grandmother to some of the most wonderful people in the world. I do, however, feel more of a connection to the Israelites I read about in the Bible knowing that some of them are my distant ancestors. 

So, what’s in your DNA?  It might surprise you.

I’m Posting every week in 2011!

I’ve decided I want to blog more. Rather than just thinking about doing it, I’m starting right now.  I will be posting on this blog once a  week for all of 2011.

I know it won’t be easy, but it might be fun, inspiring, awesome and wonderful. Therefore I’m promising to make use of The DailyPost, and the community of other bloggers with similiar goals, to help me along the way, including asking for help when I need it and encouraging others when I can.

If you already read my blog, I hope you’ll encourage me with comments and likes, and good will along the way.

Signed,

Susan Ball

Letting Life Get Me Down

I’ve been a bit bummed lately.  After spending more than $1,000 on a root canal and crown in an attempt to save one of my teeth, I had to have it pulled yesterday.  So, now I have a hole where I should have a tooth.  It will have to heal for several months before I can begin the process of having an implant put it.  I don’t completely understand the procedures involved; I only know that it will be about a year before it is complete.  And, it will cost me another $1,000 or maybe more, and probably some discomfort.

I will be glad when the hole in my gum heals and I can eat normally again.  Hopefully, this is the end of the pain and infection I have battled for the past two months.  It’s been a real pain.  I’m ready to be off antibiotics and pain pills.

I know it’s not the end of the world.  It’s just something I’m going through, and millions of people have had similar experiences.  A friend shared that she is missing a couple of teeth because she didn’t have dental insurance and couldn’t afford root canals when those teeth needed them, so she had to have them pulled.  Ouch! I felt guilty for whining about my situation. I’m fortunate to have great dental insurance and to be able to pay to have the tooth fixed properly. 

Francesca Battistelli has a new song on the radio called This is the Stuff.  It’s all about how the little things in life get you down. The first verse and chorus are:

  I lost my keys
In the great unknown
And call me please
‘Cause I can’t find my phone 

This is the stuff that drives me crazy.
This is the stuff that’s getting to me lately.
In the middle of my little mess
I forget how big I’m blessed

This is the stuff that gets under my skin
But I’ve got to trust You know exactly what You’re doing
It might not be what I might choose
But this is the stuff you use

 

 

Lately, I have related well with this song.  It seems we take one step forward only to slip two steps back.  Of course, an infected tooth is a much bigger deal than lost car keys, but compared to the problems faced by many people, it’s pretty minor.  The gum will heal, and the implant procedure will be completed in time. 

Life is full of problems, both large and small.  It’s easy to get so bogged down by our problems that they become our focus.  God allows difficulties in our life to show us our need for Him.  When problems come, we need to keep our focus on God and rely on Him to see us through.  Tomorrow is Sunday.  I look forward to worshipping with others in my church.  It is exactly what I need to get my focus back where it should be—on my Creator.

Delight–Revisited

I read a blog yesterday in which the author discussed his One Word choices for the past three years and how he chose his One Word for this year.  While he remembered clearly his Words for 2008 and 2009, he was unable to recall his One Word for 2010 and had to look it up.  Interestingly, the word he forgot was Enjoy.  Enjoy seems like a pretty easy word to focus on for a year, and I was first amused that he had forgotten it.    Clearly, he was not successful in Enjoying life fully last year.

I was less amused as I read his explanation that he failed to live up to his word because he is more of a Martha than a Mary.  That observation hit close to home.  I am definitely more of a Martha.  For those of you who don’t understand the reference, this Martha was a friend of Jesus and sister to Lazarus and Mary.  When Jesus came to visit, Martha rushed around cooking and serving while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet feasting on his words.  When Martha complained to Jesus that her sister wasn’t helping her, he replied that, “Mary has chosen what is better.” (Luke 10:42)

For those of us who are doers, sitting at the feet of Jesus does not come naturally.  It is easier for us to volunteer to teach Sunday school or spend a day helping with an event than it is to spend an hour in quiet reflection in God’s Word.  We get so busy doing that, like the author of yesterday’s One Word blog, we forget to enjoy our time with God.  We may also have a hard time fully enjoying our families, our friends, our hobbies, and our work.

The dictionary defines Enjoy as “to take pleasure in; to find or experience pleasure.”  Delight is Enjoy compounded:  “a high degree of pleasure or enjoyment; to give great pleasure; to take great pleasure in.”

When I chose Delight as my One Word for the year, I was focused on Delighting in God and recognizing that He Delights in me.  I will now add another focus—remembering to take Delight in my everyday life.  I will try this year to Delight in time spent in God’s word, to Delight in time spent with my family and friends, and to Delight in those I minister to or who minister to me.  I will try to relax more and be fully present in each moment.  I will try to avoid thinking about everything on my to-do list and what I could be accomplishing when I should be focused on those I am spending time with.

Several years ago I read Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver.  This insightful book speaks about having a balance between doing goods works and spending time communing with God.  Both are important if I am going to be the woman God has designed me to be.  Every couple of year I reread Having a Mary Heart to help me keep my focus.  It may be time to read it again.

Have you chosen One Word to focus on in 2011?  How is your One Word helping you to achieve personal growth?

In Celebration of Kristi

Yesterday I learned that Kristi DeVore Shores’ life on earth had ended. I was saddened by the news that this beautiful, vibrant thirty-nine year old woman had lost her brief battle with stomach cancer.  She was diagnosed with the illness less than three months ago.  As she fought her brave battle, family members and friends interceded with God on her behalf.  On Tuesday God healed Kristi.  It was not the healing we had hoped for, yet it was an answer to our prayers.  When Kristi’s eyes closed, her soul was transported into the presence of her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

My heart aches for the family she left behind:  her loving husband Ryan who dreamed of growing old with her, three precious children who are young enough to need a mother’s daily care, godly parents who set a wonderful example for their children in their marriage and their daily walk with Christ, and three siblings who have stayed close despite busy lives of their own.  From their Facebook posts, I know the family members are sad, but they are also happy that Kristi is pain-free and they are secure in the knowledge that they will see Kristi again when their time on Earth comes to an end.

There are hundreds of posts on Kristi’s Facebook page and web site.  Some friends share the many ways Kristi touched their lives, while others tell funny stories about her.  Most offer words of condolences to her family.  All loved her and were better off for having known her.

Those of us who knew Kristi have perfect assurance that Kristi is in Heaven.  Kristi is not in Heaven because she was kind or loving.  She didn’t earn her way into Heaven through generosity or good works.  She isn’t there because she was a loving wife, a caring mother, a dutiful daughter, and a precious sister.  Kristi was all those things and many more.  Yet, Kristi knew that she could never be good enough to get to Heaven on her own. Many years ago Kristi acknowledged what is true of all of us, that she was a sinner in need of a Savior.  Kristi believed that Jesus Christ died for her sins and she confessed Him as her Lord and Savior. And because she did, she is spending eternity in Heaven.

Perhaps you’ve been told that there are many roads to Heaven.  It sounds nice and many people believe that.  However, God’s Word teaches us that Jesus is the only way.  “There is no other name under Heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12.

Where will you spend eternity?  If you haven’t accepted Jesus’ free gift of salvation, I urge you to do so today.  The rest of your life on Earth will be better, and you will receive the promise of an eternity in Heaven.